Modric penalty completes thrilling win for Croatia over Netherlands in Nations League
ROTTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) — Veteran midfielder Luka Modric scored an extra-time penalty to seal a thrilling 4-2 victory for Croatia over the Netherlands and a place in the Nations League final.
Thousands of ecstatic red-and-white clad Croatia fans chanted “Luka! Luka! Luka!” after the 37-year-old completed the scoring from the penalty spot in the 116th minute on Wednesday.
“We couldn't believe how many fans for Croatia there were in the stadium. That was really phenomenal,” Modric said through an interpreter. “They give us great support and that's something that drives us and moves us forward.”
It was Modric’s 165th appearance for his country. He said after captaining Croatia to victory over Morocco in the third-place game at the World Cup in Qatar he wanted to “continue until at least the Nations League and after we will see.”
Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman said Modric was, “in one word: fantastic.”
“Sometimes there’s a player for the opponent who is so decisive and so good that I can — it’s hard to say — enjoy watching,” Koeman said.
Croatia was runner-up at the 2018 World Cup in Russia and third last year in Qatar.
Substitute Bruno Petković also scored in extra-time with a shot from just outside the penalty area that flew low into the corner, just out of the reach of Justin Bijlow as staunch Dutch resistance finally crumbled.
Another substitute, Netherlands forward Noa Lang, had forced the game into extra time with a volleyed equalizer six minutes into stoppage time.
Earlier in the pulsating match, a 55th-minute penalty by Andrej Kramarić — awarded for a foul on Modric — and a shot by Mario Pašalić in the 73rd minute canceled out Donyell Malen’s 34th-minute opener to keep Croatia and Modric in the hunt for their first major international title.
It ended the Netherlands' latest attempt to add another international trophy to the European Championship the country won in 1988. The Netherlands has finished as runner-up at three World Cups — in 1974, '78 and 2010.
Lang scored only his second international goal after coming on in the 85th minute. But he squandered a great chance in the second half of extra time when he shot into the side netting with Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livaković out of position.
Modric shot into the goal in the 24th minute, but referee István Kovács had already stopped play because of Pašalić’s overhead kick that floored Nathan Ake.
Spain plays Italy in the other semifinal in the eastern Dutch city of Enschede on Thursday. The final and third-fourth playoff of the third edition of the Nations League are Sunday.
The Netherlands lost 1-0 to Portugal in the first final of the biennial Nations League during Koeman’s first stint as coach of the national team. Two years later, in 2021, Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe scored as France beat Spain 2-1 to take the title.
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